© Franck Ferville / OnP

Dates / Prix

Opéra Bastille - First performance on 16 September 2013 - 7:30PM

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Fermer


Vec Makropulos
Leoš Janácek
Presentation
Pre-performance reading
The Makropoulos Affair
OPERA IN THREE ACTS (1926)
MUSIC BY LEOŠ JANÁCEK (1854-1928)
LIBRETTO BY THE COMPOSER AFTER THE PLAY OF THE SAME NAME BY KAREL CAPEK
Performed in czeck

"Who would want to live for eternity?" asks Emilia Marty as she is about to die, brandishing the formula for the elixir that has allowed her to live for 337 years ... For his penultimate opera, Janáček drew upon the literary works of Karel Čapek, a pioneer of science fiction, and dramatises his singular story of law suits and eternal life, a cross between detective fiction and metaphysics.
Krzysztof Warlikowski's hypersensitive theatre transposes the elixir of immortality into our contemporary mythology. His production is haunted by the black and white destiny of Marilyn Munroe: the eternal woman, both adulated and sacrificed on the altar of stardom and found dead after an overdose of barbiturates... Conducted by Susanna Mälkki, Janáček's music electrifies the storm of desires, the lust for lust and the  terror of death that sweep through this microcosm of Prague society.

Susanna Mälkki Conductor
Krzysztof Warlikowski Stage director
Malgorzata Szczesniak Sets and costumes
Denis Guéguin Video
Felice Ross Lighting
Miron Hakenbeck Dramaturgy
Alessandro Di Stefano Chorus master
ArtisteNoteRôle
Ricarda Merbeth
Emilia Marty
Atilla Kiss-b.
Albert Gregor
Vincent Le Texier
Jaroslav Prus
Jochen Schmeckenbecher
Dr Kolenaty
Andreas Conrad
Vítek
Andrea Hill
Krista
Ladislav Elgr
Janek
Ryland Davies
Hauk-Šendorf

Paris Opera Orchestra and Chorus


COPRODUCTION WITH THE TEATRO REAL, MADRID

The composer

Leos Janácek was born in 1854 in Hukvaldy in Moravia, and died in Ostrava in 1928. He studied music at the monastery of Brno and the organ in Prague and at the Leipzig Conservatory. He was choirmaster at Olomouc cathedral, orchestral conductor in Brno and founder of the organ conservatory in his native town. He was to compose one ballet, nine operas (including Jenufa, Fate, The Excursions of Mr Broucek, The Cunning Little Vixen, The Makropulos Affair and Kátia Kabanová), almost all of which were first performed in Brno, choral works (masses, motets, cantatas), instrumental works (rhapsodies, symphonic poems, quartets and sonatas). Janácˇek drew much of his inspiration from Moravian folklore, the study of the dialect and customs of his native land and the sounds of nature. He was also a remarkable dramatist and man of the theatre. His work is characterised by great dramatic force: the portraits of Jenufa and Katya, for example, are drawn with great psychological subtlety. During his lifetime Janácek’s success was geographically limited and late in coming: when Jenufa eventually triumphed, the composer was already 62 years old.

The work

The Makropoulos Affair, Janácek’s eighth and last but one opera, was adapted from a play by Karel Capek (1890-1938), one of the few Czech authors to earn an international reputation during the interwar period. The play tells the story of a woman, Emilia Marty, who, after drinking an elixir of youth, lives for three hundred years under different identities and in different places. When the play opens, Emilia has returned to Prague, her native city, to live out the final days of her long life. However, hearing by chance of a court case in which she herself was once involved, she thinks she may be able to find the document containing the elixir’s formula in the court archives. From that moment on, she does everything in her power to recover it…
When first performed, Capek’s play was seen as a response to George Bernard Shaw’s play, Back to Methuselah, which postulated that a longer life would result in greater wisdom and happiness. Conversely, Capek showed to what extent Emilia Marty was an unhappy woman and that it is the awareness of life’s brevity that enables us to enjoy it to the full. It was also this philosophical dimension that encouraged Janácek to adapt this odd play into an opera – a considerable number of Capek’s works dealt with science-fiction. But whereas Capek perceived it from the angle of an optimistic comedy, the composer of Jenufa and Kátia Kabanová would give it all the depth of a personal tragedy. He also endowed the character of Emilia Marty with aspects of all the female roles he had previously written, each recalling the omnipresent figure of the young woman who illuminated the last twelve years of his life: Kamila Stösslova.
As usual, from a musical perspective, Janácek paid particular attention to prosody, matching the natural rhythm of speech to that of music. As Guy Erismann writes “It is this pulse, this all-invading anxiety, the fervour of various feelings – love, money, feverish curiosity – running through this humdrum little world and this great lady, that we discover in the music.” As such The Makropoulos Affair is, of all the composer’s operas prior to From the House of the Dead, the one which combines the bleakest and most dissonant vocabulary. But a sense of passion and compassion also infuse it with a lyricism that only subsides in the final pages of the opera.

The first performance

The Makropoulos Affair was first performed in Brno on December 18th 1926, under the direction of Frantisek Neumann.

The work at the Paris Opera

The Makropoulos Affair was presented at the Opera Bastille for the first time in 2007, in a production by Krzysztof Warlikowski, sets and costumes by Malgorzata Szczesniak, with Angela Denoke (Emilia Marty), Charles Workman (Albert Gregor), Vincent Le Texier (Jaroslav Prus), under the direction of Tomas Hanus. Il is this production that is revived today.